hydrating while breastfeeding

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TL;DR

  • Experts recommend you drink ½ to ¾ of an ounce of water per pound that you weigh when you aren’t nursing. This ensures you’re hydrated enough to produce the right amount of breast milk and also stay properly hydrated for your own health!
  • While being slightly dehydrated may not affect breast milk production, it can affect your general mood, amount of energy available and overall skin health.
  • While being dehydrated won’t affect production, being overhydrated by chugging as much water as you can, will. Balance is key.
  • There are a lot of ways to make sure you stay properly hydrated, like eating water-rich food and ensuring you always have a water bottle nearby.  

Your breast milk provides the perfect portions of protein, fat, carbohydrates and nutrients for your growing little one. In order to make that milk for your baby, you have to eat and drink well. Breast milk is composed of approximately 90 percent water, so it’s important to stay hydrated in order for your body to make milk.

Some moms think that drinking enough water means that they have to guzzle gallons throughout the day. Not only will this put you in the bathroom way too often (no one has time for that with a newborn!), but it isn’t necessary.

How Much Water Do You Need to Drink While Breastfeeding?

As a general rule, experts recommend that you drink 1/2 to 3/4 of an ounce of water per pound that you weigh when you aren’t nursing. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, it’s a good idea to aim for 65 ounces of water per day. When you are nursing, you need to consume additional water above this recommended amount in order to stay well-hydrated.

You probably noticed soon after you begin nursing your little one that you felt thirsty more often. The oxytocin that your body releases during breastfeeding is responsible for triggering your thirst. This is your body’s natural way of ensuring that you are getting enough water to make breast milk. Aim to drink the amount of water that you need each day for good health and then drink to thirst beyond that.

One way to determine if you are getting enough water is to pay close attention to your urine. If you are drinking enough water, it will be almost clear or a pale yellow color. If it is dark yellow or you notice that you are urinating less often than usual, you could be dehydrated.

How Dehydration Can Affect Your Milk Supply

If you didn’t drink enough water during the day, there’s no need to panic that your little one won’t get the milk he or she needs. Your body will continue to make breast milk until you are significantly dehydrated. Studies show that women who drank a liter less of water throughout the day were still able to produce enough milk for their little one. Unfortunately, the lack of water may affect you.

Your body pulls what it needs for your little one from itself. If you aren’t getting enough calcium, for example, your breast milk will still have enough calcium in it for your little one, but your bones will suffer. The same goes for water. If you aren’t getting enough water, you may start to experience symptoms, such as:

  • Chapped lips
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Lack of energy
  • Moodiness

If you are significantly dehydrated, your body will slow down its breast milk production and your own health will be significantly impacted. Drinking the right amount of water each day is important for your own (and your little one’s) health.

Why Over-Hydrating Isn’t the Answer

If your breast milk production has decreased, you may have friends or family suggest that you chug water. Your lack of water intake is most likely not responsible for your decrease in breast milk and drinking too much water can actually harm your milk supply.

When you drink too much water, your body tries to restore the electrolyte balance in your body by dumping the excess water in the urine. This results in water being diverted away from your breasts, which can actually decrease your milk supply. Drinking to thirst and checking your urine is the best way to get the right amount of water for you.

Tips to Ensure You Get Proper Hydration

As a new mom, it’s easy to put your needs last when you are putting your little one’s first. Taking care of yourself by taking the time to stay hydrated will help ensure your little one has the nutrition they need to thrive. Some ways to do this include:

  • Always make sure that you have a full water bottle by your favorite spot to nurse. There is nothing more frustrating than feeling thirsty when you are stuck in a chair nursing your little one for 45 minutes.
  • Tuck a water bottle in your purse, in your drink holder in your car, stock your desk at work and keep some nearby your treadmill. Making sure you always have water nearby will help remind you to drink it throughout the day.
  • “Time” your water intake if you have a hard time remembering to drink it. Set an alarm for every hour and try to sip a few ounces each time the alarm goes off. You will soon be in the habit of drinking water.
  • Eat foods that have a high water content, such as watermelon, cucumbers, salads and soups.
  • Try adding fruit, a small amount of juice or a squeeze of lemon to your water to make it more palatable.
  • Download a hydration app to your phone to help keep track of how much water you drink per day.
  • Avoid drinking too many caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, tea and soda. Too much can have a diuretic effect, which can have a dehydrating effect on your body.

You have a lot to focus on as you care for your brand-new baby; stressing about drinking enough water shouldn’t be one of them. Staying adequately hydrated will help you feel energized and help your body to produce enough milk. Use these tips to get the right amount of water you need each day to stay healthy.

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